Facebook helps woman find sisters after 44 years

Facebook helps woman find sisters after 44 years
Reunited: From left to right Patrick Vanderveken, Liliane, Muriel and Dorothée. Photo: Dorothée Vanderveken
Even critics of Facebook will find it hard not to 'Like' this story. A French pensioner, fearing cancer would end her life prematurely, managed to achieve her dream of tracking down her two long-lost sisters, thanks to the social media site.

Muriel Vanderveken, 66, from the town of Douai in northern France was separated from her siblings as a young woman, when her parents separated and she was sent off to live in a convent.

“I was sent off to live with nuns in Lille and my sisters stayed at home to live with my mum. I wished I had stayed with them,” Vanderveken told RTL radio this week.

Over the years she had a burning desire to be reunited with her family, but her attempts proved fruitless.

A recent diagnosis of cancer only increased her longstanding anxiety that she might never again see her sisters Liliane and Dorothée, nor her brother Roger.

“The last time I saw Dorothée she was five and I had only seen Liliane once when she was aged one. I just wanted to find them before I died. I just had to do it,” she told Le Voix du Nord regional newspaper.

After trying the usual channels without success, Vanderveken decided to buy herself her first computer.

“A neighbour told me that I might be able to find them on Facebook. I had never heard of it. I bought the computer and started learning about it all by myself,” she said.

But her internet search was hit by complications.

“There are a heck of a lot of Vandervekens,” she said. But when she came across one called Dorothée, the name of one of her sisters, she knew her quest was nearly over.

“I just looked at her place of birth and thought ‘it must be her’,” she said.

After making initial contact through the social network, the sisters were eventually reunited during an emotional family dinner earlier this month along with brother Patrick and another sister Marie-Fance, whom she had managed to keep in contact with.

“Facebook worked better than the services at the Town Hall,” Muriel Vanderveken told The Local on Wednesday. “Because people are able to put their places of birth on their pages that's how I was able to find Dorothy.

“I had some problems with Facebook but with the help of some friends I was able to work it out."

Muriel was one of 13 siblings in total. She is still searching for another younger brother Roger, but sadly her other brothers and sisters have died. 

“It’s fantastic to be reunited, but I still need to find Roger,” she added. 

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